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Play Matt: Elric, Ranked

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12 Apr 2021 03:20 #321922 by Matt Thrower
Conan revolted me with its cheap racism. David Eddings tired...

While confined to our homes, in a time of crisis, introspection and nostalgia are an understandable, comforting response. So too is escapism. I combined both by re-reading some of the pulp fantasy classics I encountered as a teenage nerd. But teenage me is not adult me, and I was surprised and dismayed by my reactions.

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12 Apr 2021 09:38 #321923 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
Good rundown on the Elric books. Like you, I ignore Elric at the End of Time as being more of an End of Time book than an Elric book. It's a shame that nobody has made a serious effort to do an Elric movie or even an Elric cartoon, because it has cast such a long shadow over subsequent fantasy, and Moorcock practically deserves royalty checks from Games Workshop. I ran and played a lot of the Stormbringer rpg many years ago and kept all my stuff. I think that I may roll it out for one more Stormbringer campaign next year.
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12 Apr 2021 10:05 #321924 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
So apparently there are 8 Elric books now. I read them when there were 6, didn't know more books were slotted in afterwards. Not exactly sure how books can follow Stormbringer in the timeline . . .

One of the things I remember about Elric from college was that a good friend, an English major read Stormbringer first and was really impressed with it. He bummed my copies of the other books and read them in order, and by the time he reached book 4 or so he was disappointed, not so much with the earlier works but with Strombringer, "last" in the series at the time, where he expressed to me his disappointment that Elric's character didn't have half of the backstory that he had expected to find in the earlier works. Elric became a shallower character the more he read. He had given the character (i.e., the author) the benefit of the doubt.

That is, Stormbringer stood on its own, impressing a pretty critical reader. When the other materials were slotted in before it, they took away from Stormbringer's quality. To this day 40 years later I'm still trying to square that statement. It clearly had an impact on me.

Right now I'm considering grabbing Graphic Audio's rendition of Corum (same author) but I'm not sure I'm looking to pull that trigger. I enjoyed much of Moorecock's other eternal champion stuff, but that was a long time ago. A kid read that stuff, adult me isn't terribly interested in fiction anymore, may just fall flat.
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12 Apr 2021 10:44 #321931 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
The Elric books published after Stormbringer are chronologically inserted in between the previous books. There have actually been more like 11 Elric books now, but I personally found nearly everything published after Stormbringer to be a disappointment. White Wolf also published a collection of Elric short stories by other writers, and the first story is actually a new and good one by Moorcock himself.

That's an interesting observation that Elric becomes more shallow as the series goes on. Moorcock was pretty young when he wrote the early Elric books, so his creativity was strong but his character development was more of an afterthought. Later in his career, Moorcock lost some of the wild creativity but became better at character development. The creativity is especially noteworthy when compared to other popular fantasy writers. Elric was likely conceived as an anti-Conan, but he also is a significant departure from the overwhelming number of fantasy stories that combine a coming-of-age story with a boring power fantasy. Meanwhile, Elric is sailing a ship across land to lead an army of blind men into battle, or slaying gods, or summoning demons while in a psychedelic stupor. Moorcock also had a nice knack for names, often using onomatopoeia to strong effect.

My favorite scene in Stormbringer is the very unexpected cameo of a famous historical figure, and the role that he plays.

There were some good Elric comics published in the '80s and '90s, by Marvel's Epic line and then First Comics. Artists often misinterpret Elric as musclebound, when he is in fact skinny and sickly, dependent on magic and herbs. The Elric comics tend to capture a more visually appropriate version of Elric, especially artist P. Craig Russell.
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12 Apr 2021 13:34 #321943 by the_jake_1973
While my peers cut their fantasy teeth on Tolkien, I was drawn to Elric. Likely due to having moved around a lot because of my mom's frequent marriages so I felt like a loner amongst people who had history together. I continue to collect the old Eternal Champion series in the old DAW paperback format since those covers are the best. The Eternal Champion omnibus collections are nice to track down as well. For my money, Moorcock is a more interesting writer than Tolkien was, and I will die on that hill.

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12 Apr 2021 14:16 #321945 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked

the_jake_1973 wrote: Moorcock is a more interesting writer than Tolkien was, and I will die on that hill.


I got your back on this one. Tolkien's prose is magnificent, but the story work and characters are pretty pedestrian. Moorcock is much more interesting.

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12 Apr 2021 14:30 #321946 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
Moorcock has notoriously said a lot about Tolkien, in his critical piece Epic Pooh:

warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentst..._m.1978epic_pooh.pdf

Count me as a member of Team Moorcock.

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12 Apr 2021 14:33 #321947 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
Good stuff, Matt. Thanks.

I have the original DAW yellow spine copies of the first six books (Elric of Melnibone, Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Weird of the White Wolf, The Vanishing Tower, Bane of the Black Sword, Stormbringer) which I acquired from a used bookstore (Remember those?), along with the trio of Corum books, when I was a teenager. I was determined to read them in order and my response was somewhat different from yours. I kind of disliked Sailor because I was more interested in Moorcock's world-building than his excursions into weirdness. Being the constant DM among my RPG groups, world-building was kind of a thing for me at the time. Only later did I come to appreciate the more interesting stories that Sailor and Tower were actually comprised of. The two books that followed many years later were things that I acquired and read, along with the White Wolf collection that Shellhead mentions, but none of that had any real impact on me. "Decent Elric stuff" would be a good summation.

Similar to others, I think Stormbringer or Elric would be my choice for the best of the books, since they're the two with a definite narrative arc, rather than being collections of short stories. And I agree that Theleb Ka'arna was never the threat that Yyrkoon was, unfortunately. I kind of felt that Theleb was played up by later readers, similarly to Thoth-Amon from the Conan stories, who got more exposure in Marvel's comics than he ever really did in Howard's work.

In our last move, I sacrificed the vast majority of my paperback library, not wanting to move them again and not really having the space for them, either. A few hundred went to the curbside trash pickup, because no one would take them (not used bookstores, not libraries, not charities, not resale shops, not the teen center in town- No one.) But among the couple dozen I saved were the Elric and Corum books because I'm still fond of Moorcock's writing and it still seemed like those old yellow spine copies might have some value to someone, sometime.

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12 Apr 2021 14:59 #321949 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
Moorcock himself seemed only vaguely interested in world-building. The writers for the various editions and adventures for the Stormbringer rpg seized on every detail from the Elric books and worked hard to build them up into a fully-realized setting, but Moorcock was reportedly bemused by their efforts. His later Elric books certainly showed only a loose association with the world of Melnibone and the Young Kingdoms. Speaking of which, this discussion is missing reference to three later Elric books, possible due to the absence of his name from the titles: The Dreamthief's Daughter, the Skrayling Tree, and the White Wolf's Son. I have read the first two, but they didn't leave a lasting impression as they were more average quality works for Moorcock, To establish a baseline, I consider the first six Elric books to be his best, followed by the Von Bek works and then the two Corum trilogies. The Cornelius, Hawkmoon, and End of Time stories were nowhere near as good, and I would put these latest Elric books with the second group.

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12 Apr 2021 21:50 #321972 by jason10mm
Replied by jason10mm on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
David Eddings...now there's a name I've not heard....

Can't really knock him if he doesn't satisfy as an adult, I think his stuff is firmly in the YA category, such as it was in the 80's. Brandon Sanderson is basically his successor. Silk was practically a role model for my friends and I.

That old Fire and Ice cartoon is basically Conan versus Elric. There are quite a few 60s to 80s era authors that would be nice to see a Lovecraft type resurgence. Once they go into the public domain I guess.

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13 Apr 2021 00:31 #321979 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked

Shellhead wrote: Moorcock has notoriously said a lot about Tolkien, in his critical piece Epic Pooh:

warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentst..._m.1978epic_pooh.pdf

Count me as a member of Team Moorcock.

That's a man who really doesn't like Tolkien.

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13 Apr 2021 00:42 #321980 by RobertB
Replied by RobertB on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked

jason10mm wrote: David Eddings...now there's a name I've not heard....

Can't really knock him if he doesn't satisfy as an adult, I think his stuff is firmly in the YA category, such as it was in the 80's. Brandon Sanderson is basically his successor. Silk was practically a role model for my friends and I.

I've read The Belgariad, as a two-volume SF Book Club omnibus. I did finish it, but it was pretty mediocre. It was the essence of Plot Coupons, where the characters collect all the coupons and send them off to the author for the ending.

To stay on track: I need to read Eric of Melnibone again - I read it ages ago, and didn't like it. But back then I was all about Conan The Whatever.

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13 Apr 2021 08:42 #321985 by Matt Thrower

Shellhead wrote: I ran and played a lot of the Stormbringer rpg many years ago and kept all my stuff. I think that I may roll it out for one more Stormbringer campaign next year.


I also played Stormbringer when I was about 17. The only thing I remember about it was that my character lucked out on the nationality table and was a Melnibonean sorceror, whereas all the other characters were beggars and farmhands.

I basically was the entire campaign, swatting away every threat and problem like it was a gentle breeze, until I volunteered to retire him and re-roll. It rather soured me on the system, to be honest. It remains, however, a striking example of RPG design philosophy then vs now.
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13 Apr 2021 08:48 #321986 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic Play Matt: Elric, Ranked
That's a rule I would have marked to be ignored on first reading.

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13 Apr 2021 08:50 #321987 by Matt Thrower

Sagrilarus wrote: One of the things I remember about Elric from college was that a good friend, an English major read Stormbringer first and was really impressed with it. He bummed my copies of the other books and read them in order, and by the time he reached book 4 or so he was disappointed, not so much with the earlier works but with Strombringer, "last" in the series at the time, where he expressed to me his disappointment that Elric's character didn't have half of the backstory that he had expected to find in the earlier works. Elric became a shallower character the more he read. He had given the character (i.e., the author) the benefit of the doubt.


This is similar to the experience I had, reading them in narrative order. Elric doesn't actually have any kind of character arc. His personality is dependent entirely on Moorcock's mood at the time of writing rather than developing along with his experiences. Early Elric is aggressive and bloodthirsty. 70's Elric is whiny and self-pitying. Late Elric is actually a pretty typical fantasy hero.

But this comes back to the point I made about pulp fantasy. Elric has an exaggerated reputation because he's been so hugely influential on fantasy writing and because Moorcock eventually became a writer of considerable literary stature. But pulp Elric is not fine literature, and it's a mistake to read it as such and expect that level of depth and coherence from it. It's a series to be admired for its energy and imagination.

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